Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts on “el Concierto de la Paz” and our Unfounded Optimism

After nearly a week of euphoria, I think it’s time the overly optimistic Cuban-American community put their feet back on the ground. For the past week, I’ve heard all sorts of claims about the value of the Juanes concert, how it will build hope amongst the Cuban youth, how it’s a sign the regime is changing, how it’s a sign the exile community is changing. I must respectfully disagree.

Hope derived from this concert is from the mistaken impression that Cuba’s youth will be motivated to pursue its freedom and the Cuban government will not be able to control it.

I’m not quite sure what concert people saw, but here’s the one I saw:
· The only performers given any leeway in what they said were foreigners, and even then, they were obviously limited in their freedom of speech.
· The two “questionable” (in the eyes of the Cuban government) Cuban artists that were allowed to perform, X Alfonso and Carlos Varela, were kept on the tightest of leashes (particularly Varela) and their combined performances lasted fewer than 30 minutes. Varela was chaperoned off stage by security as soon as both songs were over (as his performance was divided in two…God forbid the Cuban people see him on stage for longer than 7 minutes at a time.
· The final group performance of the concert allowed only the foreigners to keep microphones in their hands; the microphone stayed far away from Varela and Alfonso.
· So, again, we see that foreigners are given more rights than Cubans, even Cuban artists…it’s nothing new for Cuba, but perhaps we can point it out and not pretend like this was some major tumbling of walls.

So, my question is: How do the Cuban youth derive hope from this? It remains obvious to any Cuban who watched the concert that nothing had changed in Cuba or its government.

Yes, the exile community was mentioned for perhaps the first time in 50 years. But again, how does this encourage hope for freedom for Cubans? What occurred was a concert, nothing more, nothing less. The Cuban people were able to enjoy the performances of world-famous mega stars, all the while knowing that the following day would be the same as the previous.

I am heartened to see that the Cuban government did not politicize the concert the way that it could have, that it did not manipulate the statements of the artists that performed. I sincerely thought that they would and am glad they did not.

But the Cuban government persists in being a repressive, near-totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of “questionable” Cuban youth were told by state police that they could not attend the concert. This is not freedom. This is not a changing government.

The message was sent loud and clear to the Cuban people: if you’re a foreigner, you’re safe; if you’re Cuban, you will continue to be unable to speak your truth…just like Alfonso, just like Varela.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cuba’s Youth: The New Opposition

ICCAS' latest Cuba Focus, by Dr. Andy Gomez:
Cuba’s Youth: The New Opposition

Since the start of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and his government have transformed Cuba’s educational system into an indoctrinating tool to program Cuba’s youth to accept and promote Marxist ideology. Every student begins his school day by reciting in his school courtyard “Pioneros por el comunismo, seremos como el ‘Che’.” (“Pioneers for communism-we will be like ‘Che’”). However, the ideological ties of the youth are weak, to say the least; they have only a distorted version of what “El Che” actually represents. They also consider Fidel Castro to be a symbol of the past, not representative of their generation. There is a huge gap between the Cuban youth and the “Generation of the Revolution.” The older generation insists on remaining in the past and uses the revolution as an excuse to empower themselves and survive the rigors of everyday life in Cuba.
About 2.2 million out of 11.2 million Cubans on the island today were born after 1991. They have no real perspective of the true purpose of the Revolution and very little knowledge of Cuba’s long history and culture, since most of Cuba’s history books focus on 1959 and beyond. People that live under totalitarian regimes survive within a “culture of fear.” They have developed a set of values and attitudes that define their daily behavior in order to meet their own wants and needs which are not compatible with the restrictions imposed by the state; the Cuban people are no exception.

Since 2002, we at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, have interviewed and surveyed hundreds of recently arrived Cubans, in addition to communicating regularly with Cuban youth groups on the island, in an effort to better understand their values and attitudes as a consequence of living in a totalitarian state. To better comprehend their patterns of psychological and social behavior, we used C.C. Hughes’ methodology (1993) which defines culture as (1) A socially transmitted system of ideas (2) that shapes and describes experiences, (3) gives names to surrounding realities, (4) is saved by members of a particular group, and (5) coordinates and determines behavior. We followed many of these individuals for a six month period and found that many began to adopt new values and attitudes that are expected in a free civil society.

Today, the values imposed by the totalitarian regime of the Castro brothers are being challenged by a new opposition—Cuba’s youth. To them the values of the Revolution are not relevant; they have started to contradict the purpose and principles of the current socialist system. Cuba’s youth are an opposition that wants “change,” even if that change is not fully defined. Most want their basic needs to be met such as better housing, more food, jobs, etc. They all want hope for the future, freedom and the right to pursue their own happiness.

Even though some of the youth have become apathetic or distrustful of politics, many do want to play a role in shaping Cuba’s future government. Yet, the space provided by the current government is very limited and controlled. Some of these youngsters have been expelled from universities or fired from their jobs simply for questioning the Cuban government’s policies and practices.

The biggest challenge for Cuba’s youth, and anyone else on the island, will be to figure out how to psychologically transform their values and attitudes in order to develop and sustain a democratic society in the future. We have learned many lessons from Central and Eastern European countries that have gone from a totalitarian regime to a more “democratic” system. Their outcomes have been mixed—it is not easy; it takes time, tolerance, compromise and a willingness to learn from the past to build a better future.

Finally, one last essential challenge will be how to keep the young in Cuba. Their patience is running out, understandably so. In interviews recently conducted with young people on the island, it’s clear that there is some hope that once Fidel Castro is dead, General Raul Castro could very well introduce new reforms; these reforms may be too late and deal mostly with the current economic crisis. In the eyes of Cuba’s youth, Raul Castro will try to preserve the failed ideology of the Revolution. For them, this is unacceptable. The Cuban youth’s demands go much beyond what Raul Castro is willing to give. The frustrations amongst Cuba’s youth remain deep and the reality of the everyday struggle for freedom persists. How much longer can the system survive?
*Dr. Andy S. Gomez is Associate Provost, University of Miami; Senior Fellow, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.He was assisted in this article by Vanessa Lopez, Research Associate at ICCAS, and Giselle Recarey-Delgado, UM student.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weirdest Job Posting Ever...

I wonder if there's a shortage of people willing to do this?

Cuba seeks applicants for secret police

Havana, Aug 19 (EFE).- Cuba's national police are inviting applications for the force's OTOS secret operations unit, the official AIN news agency said Wednesday.

The process is open to men and women ages 18 to 40 who have high-school diplomas and suitable "political-ethical characteristics," AIN said, citing a police statement.

OTOS needs "motivated" individuals with a "taste for investigation, risk," who are capable of dealing with cases in which there are no obvious suspects, the police statement said.

Recruits will have the opportunity to earn a law degree while on active duty with the force, the national police said.

"OTOS works in the uncovering, prevention and solution of criminal and economic offenses through the use of the methods and means of secret operations work," the statement said.

Besides OTOS, the communist-ruled island has a State Security force that deals with perceived threats and challenges to Cuba's one-party political system. EFE

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not Enough $$$ for a Party

With Fidel not completely out of the picture (read: dead) Raul cannot call a Party Congress...the problem: Fidel is officially the First Secretary, and one cannot hold a Party Congress without the First Secretary present (well, one could, but it just wouldn't be proper).

Raul called for this Congress in 2008, undoubtedly assuming Fidel would have died, thereby making his assension to First Secretary a defacto occurance. With Fidel alive, Raul most certainly feels that the internal politics would not allow him to strip the title from his brother.

So, to try to save face, Raul is blaming the bad economy for the Party's indefinite suspension...although, I can't quite see how one has anything to do with the other.

Cuba suspends plans for Communist Party congress
WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer Will Weissert, Associated Press WriterHAVANA

Cuba on Friday suspended plans for a Communist Party congress and lowered its 2009 economic growth projection to 1.7 percent — nearly a full percentage point — as the island's economy struggles through a "very serious" crisis.

In a closed-door meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee, officials agreed to postpone indefinitely the first congress since 1997, which had been announced for the second half of this year.

The gathering was to chart Cuba's political future long after President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel are gone. Instead, top communists will try and pull their country back from the economic brink.

Cuba lowered its 2009 growth estimate from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent, but even that figure is dubious given that it includes state spending on free health care and education, the food Cubans receive with monthly ration booklets and a broad range of other social services.

The revision downward was the second of its kind this year. As recently as December, central planners said they thought the Cuban economy would grow by 6 percent in 2009.

The country's economic problems began last summer, with three hurricanes that caused more than $10 billion in damage. The situation has worsened with the onset of the global financial crisis and subsequent recession.

The 78-year-old Raul Castro succeeded his brother as president more than 18 months ago, but it's the soon-to-be 83-year-old Fidel who remains head of the Communist Party.

Party congresses historically have been held every five years or so to renew leadership and set major policies, but the government has broken with that tradition over the past decade.

Information about the Central Committee meeting occupied the entire front page of the Communist Party daily Granma and a full page inside cited Raul Castro as reporting that "things are very serious and we are now analyzing them."

"The principal matter is the economy: what we have done and what we have to perfect and even eliminate as we are up against an imperative to make full accounts of what the country really has available, of what we have to live and for development," the newspaper said, citing the president.

It said authorities would postpone the sixth Party congress "until this crucial phase ... has been overcome," but did not say when that might be.

Waiting for his copy of Granma when it hit newsstands at 7 a.m., Raul Salgado, a 72-year-old retiree, said, "I want to know what's happening, or better yet, what's going to happen."

"I don't think it matters much to the people if there is a congress or not. What the people want here in Cuba is to know what the government is going to do to get out of such a terrible situation like the one in which we're living," Salgado said.

Cuba has begun a major push to conserve energy in an attempt to save some of the imported oil it uses to run power plants. State-run factories have been idled during peak hours, air conditioners have been stilled at government offices and some work hours shortened.

Granma made it clear more cutbacks were coming, but did not give details. Cuba's rubber-stamp parliament convenes Saturday for one of its two full sessions a year and could unveil new energy-saving plans then

Monday, July 20, 2009

Biscet's 48th Birthday

In his sixth year of incarceration, Oscar Elias Biscet turns 48 today.

Let us hope he will soon be able to celebrate as a free man.

In other words, it's nothing new...

Disaster Drill Illustrates New Approach To Cuba (Rosenberg, MH)
Monday, July 20, 2009; A1
Miami Herald
By Carol Rosenberg
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- About 150 U.S. and Cuban troops worked side by side last week, testing collaboration across a minefield that has long divided the Cold War adversaries.

A Cuban Army helicopter flew over this Navy base and dropped 500 gallons of saltwater on burning plywood to extinguish a simulated raging wildfire. American sailors crossed into Cuban-controlled turf to set up a mock triage center run by both nations' militaries, should catastrophe strike.

Nearly anywhere else, the event would have been a run-of-the-mill training exercise. And although U.S. forces at this remote base have engaged in the annual rite with the Cuban Frontier Brigade for more than a decade, the Bush administration forbade the disclosure of information. The Southern Command usually answered questions about the time, date or operation scenarios with ``no comment."

This time, the U.S. military struck a different tone. It provided details but refused to let journalists already on the base for war-court hearings observe the "mass casualty exercise." Sailors photographed the event but were forbidden to release the images, said U.S. Navy base spokesman Terence R. Peck.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jack Sheehan called the calibrated exposure a likely "trial balloon" by an Obama administration experimenting with expanded relations with Havana.

The White House has moved on a number of initiatives involving Cuba this year, including increasing the frequency with which Cubans could visit the island and voting for a process that could return Cuba to the Organization of American States after almost 50 years. And this summer, the administration resumed U.S.-Cuban diplomatic talks on migration issues, which the Bush administration abandoned seven years ago.

Sheehan, a 1994-97 commander of the U.S. Atlantic Command, and advocate of deeper U.S.-Cuban military relations, told The Miami Herald he instituted the mass-casualty drill as part of an outreach to a military that, he said, would have a critical, trusted role in any future transition in Cuban society.

He said the Obama administration was now likely engaging in "an incremental process" of exposing and potentially exploiting the military relationship at Guantanamo. "We've never advertised it in the sense of the term because it was very controversial," he said.

Pentagon policymakers refused to comment on the new approach. Navy spokesmen said only that the U.S. Navy base ``has fostered a positive relationship with the Cuban Frontier Brigade . . . as one outcome of our shared responsibility for this region of Cuba."

Sheehan said all sorts of military engagement began in the mid-'90s when both sides agreed to migration accords to stem the tide of rafters trying to cross the Florida Straits for Miami, a time he said, ``when hard-liners on both sides of the Straits were looking for reasons not to advance a dialogue."

Discussions then, he said, included minefield removal and scenarios for what would happen if a U.S. fighter jet strayed into Cuban territory.

The talks increased when the Bush White House decided to open the war-on-terror prison camps at Guantanamo, said retired Navy Capt. Bob Buehn, a former base commander.

The Americans informed their Cuban military counterparts ahead of the Jan. 11, 2002, arrival of alleged enemies in orange jumpsuits, and the Cuban government permitted large U.S. military aircraft carrying al Qaeda suspects from Afghanistan to fly over portions of Cuba rather than perform risky corkscrew landings.

But these drills and exchanges were mostly kept secret and mentioned cryptically by base commanders long afterward to illustrate what they cast as a "benign relationship" along a 17.4-mile fence line where cameras, motion detectors and stadium lighting now augment a leaner U.S. Marine force than those portrayed in the Hollywood hit, A Few Good Men.

Another example: Last month, the U.S. Navy provided a special flight to an American archbishop, Timothy Broglio, from the base at Guantanamo to Grand Cayman -- in time to catch a connection to Havana.

From there he flew on to Santiago, in time to tell worshipers at a Mass the next day, across the minefield, that U.S. troops would welcome ties with the Cuban people.

"Many of the servicemen in the Guantanamo base wanted to make this trip with me," he told Cuban Catholics in a homily reportedly delivered in flawless Spanish by Broglio, a former Vatican delegate to the Dominican Republic. ``Let us pray to God that someday we may share a service together, without separations."

Broglio is head of the Vatican's diocese that ministers to Catholics and their families in the U.S. military.

He told The Herald that the U.S. Navy made his trip easier, but it was initiated by the Bishop of Guantanamo, in the Castros' Cuba, who had been told the American archbishop would visit the 45-square-mile Navy base that Fidel Castro ordered evacuated more than 40 years ago.

Cuba declined a proposal by the Guantanamo Archdiocese to let Broglio cross the minefields, through a road that connects Cuba to the Navy base.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In Case You're Not Too Busy Standing in Line

When will they realize that salaries will not substantially rise until they break away from the dictums of a centralized, socialist economy?

June 30, 2009 Cuban Colada, The Miami Herald.
New law: It's OK to hold more than one job
Cubans may hold more than one job, says Decree No. 268, approved June 26 by the Council of State and announced Monday in the Communist Party daily Granma.The Council calls the concept "pluriemployment," explaining that "the workers, after fulfilling the duties of the post they hold, may enter into more than one work contract and receive the corresponding salary."

The announcement does not say how many jobs a worker may hold.Pluriemployment "is linked to the rational use of human resources and labor contracts" and is intended "to attenuate the effects of an aging population, stimulate work in society" and provide "the chance that the workers may increase their income."There are some exceptions. Multiple jobs are out of the question for "cadres and functionaries, health technicians and professionals, researchers, professors, teachers and auditors, except in the case of teaching or scientific research posts or others that are approved" by their current employers.High school and college students old enough to work may hold more than one job but only part-time and for a specific length of time.The City of Havana is empowered to hire workers who live in other provinces "to cover its work needs on a temporary or permanent basis," the decree says, citing the need "to stimulate the productive forces, make possible an increase in income" and enable "work to be the principal source of satisfaction for [Cubans'] material and spiritual needs."

The average monthly salary in Cuba is 415 pesos, about US$19. While the Cuban government subsidizes many food products and provides education and health care at no cost, that amount is not sufficient for most wage earners. Decree No. 268 appears to be a way to help Cubans to help themselves. To read the announcement in Granma, in Spanish, click here.

---Renato Pérez Pizarro.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And Our Riots?

Just a thought for today:

After a seemingly fraudulent election in Iran, we have seen large scale riots in the streets of Tehran the past couple of days. It makes me wonder why we don't see the same thing after our (Cuba's) more obviously fraudulent elections.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rationed Rations

Quotas of beans, peas, salt are reduced
The individual quotas of three rationed food products -- beans, peas and salt -- have been reduced, effective June 1, according to the e-zine Progreso Weekly's blog.An official note by the Ministry of Domestic Trade, posted in every grocery store, states that the quotas of beans and peas, each set at 20 ounces per family member per month, have been cut to 10 oz.The salt quota -- 2 kilograms every three months for a 3-to-4-member family -- has been reduced to 1 kilogram.Black beans can be purchased in farmers' markets for 10 ordinary pesos (US 38 cents) per pound; kidney beans for 12 pesos (US 45 cents) per pound, but salt is sold only in convertible-peso stores, for the equivalent of US 70 cents per kilogram, the blog says."Many Cubans wonder if the rationing of what's already rationed will be limited to beans, peas and salt, or if this is the beginning of new cutbacks," Progreso Weekly's Havana correspondent writes. "Some people understand that peas are rationed because they are imported -- but beans? They don't understand the motive. To other compatriots, the measure is an unequivocal sign that the ration card will be around for a long time. And the card, even when prudently managed, is not enough to furnish [a family's] needs for two weeks."---Renato Pérez Pizarro.
Posted by Renato Perez at 01:00 AM in Economy

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cuba Free to Reintegrate OAS if Abides by Practices, Proposals, and Principles

OAS votes to readmit Cuba after 47 years
By NESTOR IKEDA – 54 minutes ago

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — The Organization of American States voted by acclamation on Wednesday to revoke the 1962 measure suspending communist Cuba, overturning a landmark of the Cold War in the hemisphere.

"The Cold War has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya immediately following the announcement. "We begin a new era of fraternity and tolerance."

The action doesn't mean Cuba will return to the 34-member body that helps coordinate policies and mediates disputes throughout the Americas.

Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted they have no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States.

And if Cuba changes its mind, the agreement calls for "a process of dialogue" in line with OAS "practices, proposals and principles" — a veiled allusion to agreements on human rights and democracy.

"The historic action taken today eliminates a distraction from the past and allows us to focus on the realities of today," State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington.

He said it would let officials "continue with the president's efforts to support the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine Cuba's future consistent with our core principles and those of the Americas."

Wood also portrayed the resolution's reference to OAS principles as a victory for U.S. diplomacy, noting that most countries had favored automatically readmitting Cuba.

"The United States worked tirelessly," he said, to ensure "that the return of Cuba to participation in the OAS will be done consistent with the principles and purposes of the democracy and human rights."

Only hours earlier, State Department spokesman told reporters than failure to reach an agreement was "a clear sign of how the president's approach to relations in the Americas is paying dividends."

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote in state newspapers on Wednesday that OAS should not exist and historically has "opened the doors to the Trojan horse" — the U.S. — to wreak havoc in Latin America.

UNhappy Birthday


Male life expectancy in Cuba: 75.19 years.

If only!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Llamamiento al gobierno cubano

We call on the Cuban government to:

--Free all political prisoners

--Lift all restrictions for Cubans to enter and leave their country

--Lift all restrictions on access to the internet

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Blind Leading the Blind:

Business Recorder
May 17, 2009 Sunday
Pakistan and Cuba are to sign an agreement for the establishment of a Joint Economic Commission (JEC), official sources told Business Recorder here on Saturday. They said that Federal Cabinet in its decision on April 23, 2008 had allowed the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to start negotiations on the draft agreement that would establish the JEC between the two countries.
Accordingly, the draft agreement was negotiated through diplomatic channels between Pakistan and Cuba. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Law and Justice proposed major changes in the first version of the agreement, which have been incorporated in the final version. Sources said that the Ministry of Industries and Production had proposed inclusion of specific/priority areas like co-operation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector in the agreement.
The EAD was of the view that since the JEC agreement would be an umbrella agreement for economic co-operation, it should cover the entire gamut of economic co-operation and specific areas/agenda may be decided at the time of holding of the JEC meeting. As such, it is not necessary to mention each and every sector in the main agreement.
Under the above agreement, co-operation will be undertaken in accordance with the national laws of both contracting parties pursuant to general principle of international law and will include;
(a) the undertaking of feasibility studies to identify viable investment projects;
(b) incorporation of international economic associations;
(c) the granting of scholarships for specialised studies, professional development, technical education and vocational training;
(d) the provision or exchange of specialists and other professionals to provide services for defined projects and programmes on mutually agreed terms and conditions by the parties;
(e) the provision or exchange of the required equipment and appliances for the implementation of defined programs and projects of technical co-operation; and;
(f) any other co-operation modality that is convenient and of mutual interest to the parties. Sources said the final draft of the proposed agreement had been submitted to the Federal Cabinet in its meeting on May 6, 2009, which was approved as recommended by the EAD.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

GISELLE RECAREY: La política es de todos

Below, find an excellent article by Giselle Recarey.

Desde hace algún tiempo resuenan en mi cabeza las frases ''la política no es para mí'', ''yo no soy político''. Cuando las escucho, mi mente se traslada a La Habana, ciudad que tuve que dejar un año atrás. Lo contradictorio y sorprendente a la vez es que estoy en Miami, pero los voceros de estas frases son los mismos cubanos, algunos con mucho o menos tiempo que yo acá, pero todos actores de una sola historia, el exilio.

En recientes conversaciones con amigos aparece el retórico tema de la política y es que no lo podemos evitar, de una forma u otra siempre ella está ahí. Es que la política, como expresa una de sus definiciones, es un conjunto de ideas y valores que ejecutan los individuos con un propósito. Muchos de mis amigos me repitieron una vez más las mismas frases, ''yo no tengo nada que ver con la política'', ''yo no soy político'', pero fueron esos amigos quienes con sus opiniones me impulsaron a escribir este artículo. Si cada uno de no-
sotros pensáramos que la política no nos pertenece, yo me pregunto para quién es entonces. Si no nos interesa como individuos, ¿por qué sufrimos sus consecuencias? ¿Seremos los cubanos realmente apáticos? ¿Qué tanto nos importa Cuba?

Después de buscar, creo encontrar parte de la respuesta. Los cubanos que hemos vivido bajo un sistema totalitario, donde las consignas políticas, los discursos, las marchas y los actos de ''reafirmación revolucionaria'', que no son más que actos de repudio contra personas decentes, hacen el día a día, hemos desarrollado un sistema sicológico de defensa en el cual, para librarnos de esa maquinaria demoledora, utilizamos la apatía para buscar algo de respiro y tranquilidad.

Pero después de muchos años de usar este mismo mecanismo de defensa casi de forma inconsciente, ni cambiando de sociedad podemos cambiar nuestra mentalidad. Por lo que a veces en sociedades democráticas seguimos actuando como si viviéramos bajo regímenes totalitarios. Este es el origen de comentarios como estos que oímos a diario. El gobierno cubano ha inculcado en el ciudadano común la idea de que la política es para unos pocos y que para no tener problemas es mejor estar al margen. Este mensaje lo ha difundido usando diferentes vías: cárceles para los que ejercen las libertades cívicas, expulsiones de centros de trabajos y educativos y hasta las más subliminales, como el control de casi todos los espacios cívicos, por ejemplo el arte, la música y el cine, donde cualquier política que no sea la gubernamental está vedada.

Todas estas técnicas implementadas por el sistema totalitario le han hecho creer al cubano que verdaderamente este es un tema prohibido. ¿Cuántas veces no hemos escuchado a nuestros mayores diciéndonos: ''Si no quieren problemas, no se atrevan a dar criterios políticos''? Es que en nuestro afán de escapar del dolor y olvidar las malas memorias, estamos cayendo en pozos aún más profundos y negros como la indiferencia.

Si nos sentimos orgullosos de las palmas tan verdes y erguidas, de la hermosura de nuestras playas y de la hospitalidad de nuestra gente, y si en cada rincón fuera de Cuba gritamos a viva voz que somos cubanos, entonces no podemos dejar en manos de unos pocos lo que por derecho también nos toca, la política, ésa que es libre y no la dicta nadie. Esto no quiere decir que tengamos todos que ejercer políticas de Estado ni convertirnos en politólogos. Pero velar por Cuba y su gente, brindar ideas y opiniones es parte de nuestro deber.

Usemos la misma fe, a la que recurrimos para progresar en tierras extrañas. Vivimos exiliados por la falta de libertad de nuestra tierra, que muchos enmascaramos con motivos menores como necesidades económicas, falta de desarrollo profesional, ausencia de proyectos de vida, entre otros. Emprendamos nuevos caminos y vayamos al fondo de los problemas. Los cubanos no somos apáticos, sólo que hemos dudado por la oscuridad de la tormenta. La sociedad también es nuestra y tenemos derecho a cambiarla, rescatemos la conciencia ciudadana dormida dentro de nosotros. La libertad tiene un alto precio, pero no dejemos que el miedo nos brinde una cómoda silla para pararnos en nuestra lucha por alcanzarla. Nunca es tarde para comenzar.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

But I Thought Fidel Said Ethanol was Evil...

Cuba building six sugar mills under ALBA plan

HAVANA, May 4 (Reuters) - Cuba is building six sugar mills for countries participating in a Venezuelan-led cooperation program called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the official trade union weekly Trabajadores said on Monday.

Reporting from the heart of he country's machine-building industry in Villa Clara province, the paper said some of the mills would be fitted to produce ethanol and the industry was also supplying spare parts for ALBA countries.

"Six mills are being built, and some will be fitted with technology to convert them to ethanol producers," the paper said.

ALBA, begun by Venezuela and Cuba, also includes Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Dominica, but the article did not say where the mills will be located.

The contract is a boom for Cuba's machine-building industry, which built eight sugar mills for domestic use between 1965 and 1985, and has seen supply contracts for the domestic sugar industry dwindle as it is downsized.

Since the decade began Cuba has closed some 90 mills, all built before the 1959 revolution.

Some of the closed mills and parts were sold to Venezuela. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anybody There?

2008 was the third consecutive year of population decline in Cuba.

ONE reported that 37,000 Cubans emigrated. They recorded 10,000 births and 86,000 deaths (a record since 1963, when ONE started these reports).

By the year 2020, ONE expects Cuba's population to be 25,000 less than it was in 2008. I don't quite know how they reach that figure, since it seems like in just one year Cuba might have 25,000 people less than they did in 2008. Maybe they'll just start counting the tourists.

According to CEPAL, Cuba is the only country in the region that has a negative growth's just another one of the successes of the Revolution.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

With a Rebel Yell, He Cries "More, More, More"

At the inauguration of today's meeting of the Countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, Raul Castro responded to Obama's recent Cuba comments.

He considers the lifting of restrictions on trips and remittances to be positive, but that they will have a minimal reach. In other words, he wants more concessions from the U.S.

Raul also stated that he will not be giving any concessions: "Cuba has not imposed any sanctions against the U.S. or against its citizens...Cuba is not the one that needs to make gestures."

Restating what he had said during the ALBA conference, Raul said, "We have reiterated that we are willing to talk with the U.S. government, in conditions of equality, but not to negotiate our sovereignty or our political or social systems, our right to self determination, or our internal affairs."

Reading between the lines, we know he means, you can talk about anything, but we will not do anything that we think will jeopardize our system.

To me, this is no different than what he had said during the ALBA meeting, although what he had said was interpretted very differently in the press.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lage Rumors

Today some rumors have surfaced that Carlos Lage has hanged himself.

I have no idea if they are true, but it's being reported that the Venezuelan paper "El Nuevo Pais" (they have no website) printed that it heard rumors that Lage killed himself last night.

Washington sources are saying there is no truth to these rumors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Su balsa no se hundió

After a couple weeks of speculation, it's hitting the internet that Gorki is in Mexico. Yes, Gorki has left the island. It's being reported that he is in Xalapa.

I wish him luck and hope that he will enjoy real freedom of speech, something which he long fought for in Cuba, and use it to continue denouncing the regime and the life he was forced to lead, the life his friends and bandmates must still endure.

La batalla sigue, espero que no se olvide.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Raul Actually Said...

It does not sound like he's willing to discuss human rights and political prisoners. It sounds more like he is complaining that the U.S. will bring them up as topics of conversation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

But I Thought You Didn't Have Political Prisoners?!

Raul Castro yesterday: "I'm confirming it here today: If they want the freedom of those political prisoners, who include some confessed terrorists, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who were tried and sentenced . . . free our prisoners and we'll send them to you with their families and whatever they want -- those so-called dissidents and patriots.''

Ummm...Raul: here in the U.S. we have a little something called separation of powers, you might not have heard of it, but basically it's 3 branches of government and the Executive can't do whatever it wants, or rather, whatever you want.


PS--I'm sooo glad you're willing to talk about anything at all, even those political prisoners you always said you didn't have. But, just so we're clear, I know you know talk is cheap and I expect you to make no real changes. Freedom of the press before a free market (or some semblance there of)? Quite doubtful. It's all a rouse to get the U.S. to the negotiating table and extract more concessions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Administration's Changes:

Office of the Press Secrectary___________________________________________________________For Immediate Release April 13, 2009

Today, the Obama administration announced a series of changes in U.S. policy to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. In taking these steps to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families and promote the freer flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, President Obama is working to fulfill the goals he identified both during his presidential campaign and since taking office.

All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects basic human, political and economic rights of all its citizens. President Obama believes these measures will help make that goal a reality.

Cuban American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. Accordingly, President Obama will direct the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to support the Cuban people’s desire for freedom and self-determination by lifting all restrictions on family visits and remittances as well as taking steps that will facilitate greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of information and humanitarian resources directly to the Cuban people. The President is also calling on the Cuban government to reduce the charges it levies on cash remittances sent to the island so family members can be assured they are receiving the support sent to them.

Specifically, the President has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:

Lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.
Remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.
Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
Add certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

Supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future and that of their country is in the national interest of the United States. The Obama administration is taking steps to promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.

Lift All Restrictions on Family Visits to Cuba
We will lift all restrictions on family visits to Cuba by authorizing such transactions by a general license, which will strengthen contacts and promote American good will. We will ensure the positive reach of this effort by:

Defining family members who may be visited to be persons within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) and to allow individuals who share a common dwelling as a family with an authorized traveler to accompany them;
Removing limitations on the frequency of visits;
Removing limitations on the duration of a visit;
Authorizing expenditure amounts that are the same as non-family travel; and
Removing the 44-pound limitation on accompanied baggage.

Remove Restrictions on Remittances
We will remove restrictions on remittances to a person’s family member in Cuba to increase Cubans’ access to resources to help create opportunities for them by:

Authorizing remittances to individuals within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) provided that no remittances shall be authorized to currently prohibited members of the Government of Cuba or currently prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party;
Removing limits on frequency of remittances;
Removing limits on the amount of remittances;
Authorizing travelers to carry up to $3,000 in remittances; and
Establishing general license for banks and other depository institutions to forward remittances.
Authorize Greater Telecommunications Links with Cuba
We will authorize greater telecommunications links with Cuba to advance people-to-people interaction at no cost to the U.S. government. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba.
Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers.
License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.
Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.

Revise Gift Parcel Regulations
We will expand the scope of humanitarian donations eligible for export through license exceptions by:

Restoring clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and soap-making equipment to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
Restoring items normally exchanged as gifts by individuals in "usual and reasonable" quantities to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors to include any individual;
Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donees to include individuals other than Cuban Communist Party officials or Cuban government officials already prohibited from receiving gift parcels, or charitable, educational or religious organizations not administered or controlled by the Cuban government; and
Increasing the value limit on non-food items to $800.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Excuse me, can you please bend over a little more?

My frustration over the visit of the 6 members of the Congressional Black Caucus has slowly been growing and this morning I'll admit that I lost it when I read that Useful Idiot Rush (D-IL) says that he is endeared to Raul for his sense of humor, oh, and his "basic human qualities." (How basic are we getting here? Like, he breaths, has 2 arms and 2 legs)

How nice! I'm so glad he was won over by the charming personality of a murderous dictator...I hear Hitler was pretty cool himself, wonder what the CBC members would have thought of him!

Now, it wasn't bad enough that they met with Raul, which could be justifiable--he is Cuba's President and if you want dialogue, well I guess you just have to talk with him, fine. However, they also met with Fidel, the convalescent ranting buffoon that finds it way too inconvenient to die and rid the world of his endless rantings now published in Granma almost daily.

Why they would find it necessary to meet with this decrepit old sociopath who begged Khrushchev to obliterate the U.S. during the missile crises, saying it was alright if Cuba was destroyed in the process, is beyond me. Unless of course they are truly Communists. No Congressman can claim ignorance of the hundreds of political prisoners currently in Cuba's jails, nor can they say they know nothing of the thousands of executions ordered under Fidel's watch.

These brothers are ruthless murderers and these US Congressmen bow before their feet.

What has probably been the most frustrating thing of all is that these Congressmen (and the US should be ashamed that its representatives would do such a thing) met with the families of the Cinco Heroes and have said they will consider lobbying Michelle Obama to see if they can get the Cuban spies released from prison.

Unlike the hundreds of prisoners of conscience currently rotting in Cuba's jails (not to mention the tens of thousands that have been imprisoned or executed), these spies had fair trials. They were even able to file appeals and the original verdicts were upheld. And yet these Congressmen are going to fight for them to be released?!

Mind you, they can't be bothered with asking the Cuban government to release its hundreds of prisoners of conscience, let alone ask to be taken to see those rotting behind bars after being summarily tried and imprisoned.

They didn't meet with any dissidents or other members of the opposition. They didn't meet with Las Damas de Blanco, they haven't met with the relatives of Cuba's political prisoners that are in the US, and they haven't met with former political prisoners that currently live in the US...I'm sure at least one lives in one of the districts of these seven Congressmen.

Maybe if they had done any of these things, their meetings with the murderous pair would have been somewhat tolerable, but without exhibiting any display against the human rights violations in Cuba, without any display advocating for democracy, the Congressmen are just Lenin's useful idiots, allowing themselves to serve as marionettes for the dictatorship.

In Today's Granma

In today's Granma, there were some eloquent words...Can you guess who said them?

"Y, claro, se encuentra uno una república organizada como está, colonizada por completo, atrasada por completo, y enderezar esto lleva tiempo, arreglar esto correctamente lleva tiempo, porque todo está no solo atravesado sino enredado; porque es el enredo de años y de siglos y cuando usted arregla por aquí se le desarregla por allá, y tiene que ir arreglándolo todo sin desarreglar nada, y a veces la menor medida crea inconvenientes."

One could think it was Raul, trying to explain to people the predicament that he is in, asking them to be patient, basically blaming it all on the last 4+ decades of his brother's rule.

But, then one would have to guess again because it is really the big brother himself, in 1959.


Changes in the Opposition Too

Martha Beatriz Roque has stepped down from her position in the organization Agenda for the Transition, citing health concerns. She will continue on as a member of the organization.

For more information, see excerpts of a CubaEncuentro article below:

Martha Beatriz Roque renuncia a su cargo en la Agenda para la Transición
'Es la salud, que no me acompaña, la que me obliga a dar este paso', dijo la líder opositora.
Redacción CE 06/04/2009

La opositora Martha Beatriz Roque renunció a su cargo en el secretariado pro tempore de la organización Agenda para la Transición, de la que forman parte varios líderes de la disidencia interna.

"Es la salud, que no me acompaña, la que me obliga a dar este paso", dijo Roque en una nota de prensa fechada el domingo y difundida este lunes.

"Agradezco a algunos hermanos que desde meses atrás, preocupados por mis dolencias, que cada día se hacen más visibles, han solicitado de un país de la Unión Europea que tramite con el gobierno la posibilidad de salir a recibir asistencia médica, aunque sin respuesta", añadió.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fidel does it too!

Fidel Castro meets with 3 visiting US lawmakers
By WILL WEISSERT – 32 minutes ago

HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro met Tuesday with three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the former Cuban president's first known meeting with American officials since he fell ill in July 2006.

A spokesman at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana confirmed that Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, and two other lawmakers met with the ailing, 82-year-old Castro. He did not have further details nor could he provide the names of the other American leaders who attended the meeting.

Lee led a delegation of six Democratic representatives who left Havana Tuesday after a five-day trip designed to encourage dialogue between the United States and Cuba, amid much speculation long-chilly relations may improve.

Raul Meets with Members of Congressional Black Caucus

I wonder if they will be meeting with Biscet?...

Here's a disturbing article from Granma:

Sostiene Raúl encuentro con miembros del Caucus Negro del Congreso de los Estados Unidos

El General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, sostuvo la tarde de este lunes un encuentro con miembros del Caucus Negro del Congreso de los Estados Unidos, quienes realizan una visita a Cuba desde el pasado viernes.

Asistieron los representantes federales demócratas Bárbara Lee, del estado de California y presidenta del Caucus Negro, Melvin Luther Watt (California), Bobby Rush (Illinois), Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio), Emanuel Cleaver II (Missouri) y Laura Richardson (California); participaron también Patrice Willoughby, asistente ejecutiva del Caucus Negro, y Eulada Watt, esposa del congresista Melvin Luther Watt.

En el amplio intercambio de criterios se abordaron diversos temas, con énfasis en la posible futura evolución de las relaciones bilaterales y los vínculos económicos, luego de la llegada al poder de una nueva Administración norteamericana.

Al respecto, Raúl ratificó la posición cubana, expuesta de forma diáfana en varias intervenciones públicas y coincidente con los principios mantenidos de manera invariable por nuestro país durante 50 años: la disposición a dialogar sobre cualquier asunto, teniendo como únicas premisas la igualdad soberana de los Estados y el absoluto respeto a la independencia nacional y al derecho inalienable de cada pueblo a la autodeterminación.

Estuvieron presentes los miembros del Buró Político Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, y Pedro Sáez Montejo, Primer Secretario del Comité Provincial del Partido en Ciudad de La Habana; el Canciller Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores, y Jorge Bolaños Suárez, jefe de la Sección de Intereses de Cuba en los Estados Unidos.

Some People just Have no Sense of Humor

This is the first I hear or this, but it's pretty some.

Officials doomed by jokes about Castros
The New York Times on Sunday cast new light on the dismissal March 2 of Cuban officials Carlos Lage, Felipe Pérez Roque and Fernando Remírez de Estenoz. "The men were involved socially with a man named Conrado Hernández (in undated photo), who was surreptitiously recording their conversations during regular parties at his ranch in Matanzas," The Times reported, citing two unidentified Cuban functionaries. "Some of those recorded conversations [...] included acerbic criticism and off-color jokes about various government leaders, including Fidel and Raúl Castro," The Times said.

Hernández, a Cuban with good business connections who represented the Basque-owned Society for Industrial Promotion and Reconversion (SPRI), was arrested on Feb. 14 as he prepared to leave Havana for Spain with his wife. His wife was released but he reportedly remains in detention.

On March 6, Raúl Castro summoned his top 20 officials to explain the dismissals, The Times said. "In broad details, he described the evidence against the men and played certain sections of the recordings for those gathered."

The Bilbao newspaper El Correo reported Sunday that a four-man delegation from the Basque government has arrived in Havana to inquire about Hernández's legal status and to find a replacement for him as a business liaison.

---Renato Pérez Pizarro.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More from Monday

Once the majority of Cubans are labeled "anti-Cuba," does that make the ones doing the labeling anti-Cuban?

Participants in art show branded as `dissidents'


In a swift reaction Tuesday to a daring call for freedom by participants in a public performance art show in Havana, the Cuban government branded the speakers ''dissidents'' and ``individuals at the service of the propagandistic anti-Cuban machinery.''

The reaction came via a statement from the 10th Havana Biennial's Organizing Committee, which charged that those who took the opportunity of a minute at a podium to protest the lack of freedoms on the island had ''taken advantage'' of artist Tania Bruguera's Monday performance.

But Bruguera, who staged the most daring performance art show the city has seen in decades, sees herself only as conceptual performance artist.

''I'm fine. I don't want to create unnecessary mythology,'' she said Tuesday from her home in Havana, a day after the stunning images of Cubans clamoring for freedom were posted on YouTube, generating thousands of hits and Internet commentary.

''What I was doing,'' she said, ``was giving my space to others.''

The biennial is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. Bruguera said her performance was on the approved schedule.

Bruguera set up a podium in front of an ochre curtain with a microphone at the Wifredo Lam Center, an official art-exhibition space. Two actors clad in the military fatigues of the Ministry of the Interior, the agency charged with spying on Cubans' activities, flanked the podium and tended to a white dove.

When Bruguera invited people from the standing-room-only audience to come to the microphone and, for a minute, say whatever they wanted, Cubans and foreign visitors protested the lack of freedom of expression on the island.

As some spoke, the white dove was placed on their shoulders by the actors -- a mocking reference to a historic Jan. 8, 1959, victory speech by Fidel Castro during which a similar bird landed on his shoulder, a sign many people viewed as divine recognition.

The dove wasn't the only mockery of Castro.

A man in a black hood strode to the microphone, lifted the hood just a little to reveal a scraggly white beard and, mimicking the voice of Castro, said, ``I think this should be prohibited.''

He was booed, but to every call for more freedoms, the audience responded with applause and shouts of ''Bravo!'' The commotion could be heard from the street, as speakers were set up outside the Lam Center to broadcast the art performance, and passersby flocked inside to see the performance and cheer.

Bruguera, whose late father was a high-ranking Cuban official, said she had no idea how the audience -- a mix of Cubans, foreign visitors and artists, curators and collectors from the international artistic community -- was going to react to her offer of a microphone.

''People went up, but they could have done nothing, and the performance would have been the vacuum,'' Bruguera said. ``I never thought that so many people were going to go up like that, that people were going to speak out like they did. I don't know the people who spoke.''

She added: ``In reality, it was out of my hands, which I think is fine.''

Bruguera said the performance ended when Bruguera thanked the participants -- not when a technician dismantled the audio system, as a news outlet reported.

''It was dismantled because it was over. There was another performance scheduled after mine,'' she said.

The Havana performance was one in a series of works Bruguera has titled El susurro de Tatlin (Tatlin's Whisper) after Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, famous for his attempts to build a monstrously tall building.

In January, as part of that series, Bruguera staged another titillating performance at the Tate Modern in London.

Mounted police rode into the museum and confronted perplexedmuseum-goers, riding around them, back and forth, and using the horses to corral and control movement. Bruguera stood, observing, in the crowd.

''People were reaching all sorts of conclusions, that there was a bomb scare,'' said Bruguera, who holds a tenure-track position at the University of Chicago and a U.S. work visa she obtained before cultural exchanges were curtailed during the George W. Bush years.

Bruguera also staged a disconcerting performance last December during Art Basel Miami Beach at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO).

Basel VIPs were brought at random into a room filled with historic images of dead people and then interrogated by a museum guard about ``why so many people want to assassinate President Barrack Obama.''

She staged that work because she found it unusual that people were having such a conversation.
''I'm an uncomfortable artist wherever I go,'' Bruguera said. ``I'm an artist who tries to do the impossible. That's my work, and that's how I conduct my personal life.''

Monday, March 30, 2009

Open Mike Night

For one minute, people in Cuba who chose to participate were able to freely speak their minds...accompanied by a dove, no less...This is art!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lage Jr., Cienfuegos, and Miret

Some news from

Carlos Lage Codorniu, the former Vice President's son, will apparently be joining the ranks of sons and daughters of revolutionary leaders that have left the island. He will be moving to Spain, which is none too shocking.

Lage Codorniu's removal as President of the FEU was really one of the first signs that his father was not in Raul's favor. I suppose he has decided to pursue his own ambitions elsewhere now that nepotism will no longer ensure his success.

The same article also points us to La Gaceta Oficial, which publicizes the removal from government of Vice Presidents Pedro Miret Prieto and Osmany Cienfuegos Gorriarán.

It is interesting to note that these removals were not announced along with the other structural changes made earlier this month.

Did the government want this to be covered separately so people could see that it was moving some of its oldest officials out? It's the only angle that makes sense to me. Either way, it's not that big a deal, these two were already out of the game for some time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Your Brain vs. Your Brain on Drugs

Below, I've reproduced two articles about the recent removal of Lage and Perez Roque.

The first, by Carlos Alberto Montaner, seems realistic and plausible.

The second, by Jorge Castañeda, is not.

The difference in these two articles was too large not to comment on.


No foes, more power


In the '90s, it was said that Carlos Lage would lead the transition in Cuba. The first vice president was a tranquil and polite man in the midst of a usually frenetic tribe beset by a flagrant case of machismo. I heard Carlos Salinas de Gortari say it, when he was president of Mexico: ``Lage is the future.''

At that time, the Soviet Union was gone, Cuban communism teetered. It appears that when Lage talked with foreign politicians in private, he flirted with democratic ideas and sold himself as the Caribbean Adolfo Suárez, the Spanish leader who successfully led the political transition following the death of Francisco Franco in the 1970s.

At the start of the 21st century, the role of the Dauphin was played by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, an engineer who (like Lage) came from Fidel Castro's entourage. He had been a sort of first assistant to the comandante, so when Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina was expelled from his post, Fidel himself anointed Pérez Roque as a substitute because ''he was the person who best interpreted his thinking.'' Pérez Roque's apotheosis came in December 2005: He delivered a master class before Parliament, and everybody, including the Financial Times, declared him heir to the throne. At that moment, he had the reputation of being a hard, inflexible ``Taliban.''

Draw up charges

A few months later, in July 2006, Fidel Castro fell ill and had to leave the government precipitously. With the arrival of Raúl Castro to the presidency, both Lage and Pérez Roque were discreetly sidelined.

The two were cadres selected by Fidel for a hypothetical political succession, but Raúl did not trust them and had his own ideas about how and with whom to organize an economic reform and the transmission of authority. So, Raúl asked Gen. Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, his soul brother and ultra-powerful minister of the interior, to draw up a good set of charges to remove them from the game in a flash, along with the other pesky functionaries he wanted to eliminate.

And that's what happened. Cuba's formidable espionage apparatus has accumulated proof of petty corruption, continuous nepotism, negligence, counter-revolutionary behavior by relatives, personal ambition and (most grave) conveying to foreign politicians and visitors false expectations regarding purported political changes.

Pérez Roque, who in the opinion of many foreign politicians and diplomats had been a Taliban in the early days, had turned into a ''reformer.'' So thought Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who was betting on Pérez Roque for the transition.

Once the two targets had been duly ''set up,'' and armed with voluminous reports from the intelligence services, Raúl, an expert in the art of decapitating foes, began his methodical task as executioner. He easily convinced Fidel of the basic disloyalty of the subjects, summoned the Political Bureau, confronted the accused with proof of their ''immoral and miserable'' behavior, crushed them emotionally, warning them that their deeds bordered on treason, for which they deserved to be executed (if the Revolution weren't so generous) and prepared the conditions for a public announcement.

This time, however, he had to perform a bothersome task: It was necessary to explain to dimwit Hugo Chávez what was going to happen, because Lage and Pérez Roque were his favorite interlocutors, and it wouldn't be fair to surprise him with their elimination. Insufferable though the Venezuelan may be, he is the man who feeds Cuba and must be treated like a fine parrot.

A better life

With these and other personages hors de combat, Raúl feels that he has cleared the way to the Sixth Party Congress, due in the fall, at which he will arrive with all his trusted people in key positions, so nothing may escape his control. Meanwhile, total despondency spreads through the revolutionary ranks, and any illusion of change vanishes. Singer Silvio Rodríguez is going to live in Argentina, Pablo Milanés is definitely settling in Galicia, and the children and grandchildren of the nomenklatura are stealthily departing for any place where there's a hint of a better life. In Cuba everybody knows that's not going to happen.

©2009 Firmas Press

The Plot Against The Castros

Two of Cuba's star politicians seem to have been a part of a conspiracy or a coup to overthrow Raúl Castro

By Jorge Castañeda | NEWSWEEK

Published Mar 14, 2009

For years, two tidbits of conventional wisdom have dominated debates among Cubanologists (a tropical subspecies of former Kremlinologists). First, that Deputy Prime Minister and economic czar Carlos Lage has been in charge of running the island economy since the early '90s, and, despite differences of opinion regarding his performance, was seen as one of the most likely successors to Fidel Castro's brother and successor, Raúl. Second, that Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque was not only in charge of the international relations Fidel Castro took increasingly less interest in, but that he was something of a favorite son. Most observers, including several Latin American ex-presidents close to Castro, saw him as the heir apparent, once the caudillo's brother passed from the scene. So Raúl's decision to dump the two stars a fortnight ago is a major event in Cuba, and unlike previous purges, this one is clearly linked to Fidel Castro's succession, and may tell us a great deal about what lies ahead.

The problem, of course, is that, as in the Soviet Union when Stalin died, or in China after Mao's death, we don't really know what is going on. Yet there are solid reasons to believe that something along the following lines took place: for at least a month or so, Lage, Pérez Roque and others were apparently involved in a conspiracy, betrayal, coup or whatever term one prefers, to overthrow or displace Raúl from his position. In this endeavor, they recruited—or were recruited by—Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who in turn tried to enlist the support of other Latin American leaders, starting with Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, who refused to get involved.

Their reasons for wishing to unseat Rául were mainly turf and power, but they also feared that the leader was beginning to feel threatened by the reaction of the Cuban people to excessive economic and social deprivation, and after his brother's demise would be unable to control the flow of events. Consequently, he would accept a series of economic and political reforms to normalize relations with the United States, knowing full well that therein lay the only option for immediate improvement in Cubans' lives. They believed this to be a betrayal of the revolution, and the beginning of the end of its survival.

This would represent the latest of many anti-Castro intrigues since 1959. As usual, Castro (Raúl this time; before, both brothers) detected the plot almost before the plotters themselves. Raúl took the evidence collected by military intelligence to his ailing brother, and forced him to choose: stick with him and extend his support to the predetermined succession path, or back Lage and Pérez Roque and forsake Raúl. With evident disappointment in his old allies, the Comandante Máximo backed Raúl. Then Chávez was summoned to Havana to be placed before another devil's alternative: back off, while maintaining economic support for the island, or lose his Cuban security detail and intelligence apparatus, exposing himself to coups and assassination attempts from eventual Venezuelan replacements. He chose to stick with the Castros.

The day after their resignation, the two plotters were expelled from their other posts in disgrace. In a newspaper column Fidel accused them of harboring excessive "ambitions" fed by the "honey of power" and the "absence of sacrifice." He said they had reawakened the illusions of "foreign powers" regarding Cuba's future. More importantly, and enigmatically, he resorted to a baseball metaphor on the occasion of the World Baseball Classic to praise Dominicans for not participating (the team's plans had been unclear) and to claim that Chávez's baseball players, "as good and young" as they might be, were no match for "Cuba's seasoned all-stars."

When the conspirators were stripped of their titles, they published classic Stalinist mea culpa letters, acknowledging their "mistakes" (without saying what they were), and pledging loyalty to Fidel, Raúl and the revolution. Such behavior raises ominous questions. Pérez Roque was popular in Cuba; his youth, his humble origins, his combative nature all brought him closer to the people than most Cuban bureaucrats. Once Fidel is gone, will Raúl be able to "keep him down on the farm," if and when he claims to be Fidel's true heir? Will Raúl be able to pull off a rapprochement with Washington quickly enough to placate the restiveness his opponents could exploit? Or should he act to remove them from the scene, one way or another, before they return shrouded in glory?

Needless to say, none of this can be fully substantiated, and it is quite possible that, indeed, the entire affair might have now come to an end. Or, more probably, there will be a sequel: further persecution of the fallen idols, growing discontent in Cuba and increasing difficulties on the part of Raúl in managing the succession. It is worth remembering that Lenin, Stalin and Mao were all unable to control their successions, and they were neither fools nor choir children. There is scant reason to believe that Fidel, despite all his talent, will prove more successful.


Castañeda is a former foreign minister of Mexico, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

© 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Yesterday, Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, was let go as head of the Cuban Communist Party's Foreign Relations Department.

The ouster of Fidel's guys, in my view, only furthers the notion that Raul is firmly behind Cuba's helm, as I've been saying for quite some time.

I think some of the recently announced changes are for streamlining purposes, like the consolidation of some ministries. But for the most part, I would qualify these changes of personnel as the personal preferences of Raul solely to further surround himself with his people.

Of the people he has promoted the past two weeks, three have been from the Secretariat: Jorge Luis Sierra, María del Carmen Concepción González, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez. In addition to these Party officials, Raul also promoted 2 generals, general de brigada Salvador Pardo Cruz and general de brigada José Amado Ricardo Guerra.

Raul is bringing in the guns and the Party, neither of which is a surprise. The military is Cuba's strongest and most respected institution and Raul has worked closely and developed trust with those in its ranks. He has also worked closely with the Party and has established trust with many in its leadership.

The military runs the economy. It has the guns and provides the butter...Raul needs the military firmly behind him, it's the only institution that can prevent him from falling after his Vodka benders, but that's neither here nor there.

So long as he has the military's complete loyalty, Raul does not need the people's support or approval, neither of which he has.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Analysis to come...

Reestructuran Gobierno Cubano 2 de Marzo del 2009, 2:40 p.m.
La Habana, Cuba.- El Consejo de Estado dio a conocer la siguiente nota oficial.En consonancia con los planteamientos realizados por el Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, en la sesión constitutiva de la VII Legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular el 24 de febrero de 2008, acerca de que “hoy se requiere una estructura más compacta y funcional, con menor número de organismos de la administración central del Estado y una mejor distribución de las funciones que cumplen”, el Consejo de Estado, a propuesta de su Presidente, previa consulta con el Buró Político del Comité Central del Partido, acordó en reunión celebrada en el día de hoy realizar los siguientes movimientos de cuadros y reestructuraciones en algunos organismos de la Administración Central del Estado: Liberar al compañero José Luis Rodríguez García del cargo de Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros y Ministro de Economía y Planificación. Designar al compañero Marino Murillo Jorge en el cargo de Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros y Ministro de Economía y Planificación y liberarlo de su responsabilidad al frente del Ministerio de Comercio Interior. Liberar al compañero Otto Rivero Torres de sus responsabilidades como Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros, teniendo en cuenta que ha concluido el traspaso de los programas que atendía a los respectivos organismos inversionistas. El Vice-presidente del Gobierno Ramiro Valdés Menéndez quedará encargado de su coordinación y control. Fusionar los ministerios de Comercio Exterior y para la Inversión Extranjera y la Colaboración Económica, y designar al compañero Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz en el cargo de Ministro de Comercio Exterior e Inversión Extranjera, denominación que comprende a las actividades de Colaboración Económica que desarrolla el país. Liberar al compañero Raúl de la Nuez Ramírez de sus responsabilidades como Ministro de Comercio Exterior. Fusionar los ministerios de la Industria Alimenticia y de la Industria Pesquera y designar a la compañera María del Carmen Concepción González, quien fuera previamente liberada de su condición de miembro del Secretariado del Comité Central del Partido, en el cargo de Ministra de la Industria Alimenticia, denominación que incluye las actividades de la Industria Pesquera. Liberar a los compañeros Alejandro Roca Iglesias y Alfredo López Valdés de sus cargos de ministros de la Industria Alimenticia y de la Industria Pesquera, respectivamente. Liberar al compañero Felipe Pérez Roque de sus responsabilidades como Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y promover al actual Viceministro Primero, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, para ocupar ese cargo. Liberar a la compañera Georgina Barreiro Fajardo del cargo de Ministra de Finanzas y Precios y nombrar en su lugar a la compañera Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, también liberada de su condición de miembro del Secretariado del Comité Central del PCC, responsabilidad desde la cual atendía a los órganos globales de la economía. Liberar al compañero Fernando Acosta Santana del cargo de Ministro de la Industria Sideromecánica y promover en su lugar al general de brigada Salvador Pardo Cruz, quien se desempeñaba como Director General de la Unión de Industria Militar. Promover al compañero Jacinto Angulo Pardo, Viceministro Primero del Ministerio de Comercio Interior, al cargo de Ministro de este organismo. Liberar al compañero Alfredo Morales Cartaya del cargo de Ministro de Trabajo y Seguridad Social y promover en su lugar a la compañera Margarita Marlene González Fernández, actual Viceministra Primera de este organismo. Designar Ministro de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, organismo al que se traslada la atención del Polo Científico, al compañero José M. Miyar Barrueco, quien fue liberado con ese propósito de su condición de Secretario del Consejo de Estado. Designar de modo interino, sujeto a la ratificación por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular en el próximo período ordinario de sesiones, al diputado Homero Acosta Álvarez en el cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Estado, con la función de asistir y auxiliar al Presidente, el Primer Vicepresidente, los Vicepresidentes y demás miembros del Consejo de Estado en el cumplimiento de las atribuciones definidas a este órgano en los artículos 89, 90 y 93 de la Constitución de la República. El cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Estado no constituye en sí mismo una instancia con facultades de decisión en el ámbito estatal, ni desempeña protagonismo alguno en la dirección del Estado. Liberar al compañero Carlos Lage Dávila de su cargo de Secretario del Consejo de Ministros y designar en esta responsabilidad al actual Jefe de la Secretaría del Ministro de las FAR, general de brigada José Amado Ricardo Guerra, con la función de asistir y auxiliar al Presidente del Consejo de Ministros, al Primer Vicepresidente y demás miembros de su Comité Ejecutivo en sus actividades, en correspondencia con el artículo 97 de la Constitución de la República y la legislación vigente, y por tanto este cargo no constituye legalmente una instancia con facultades de decisión en materia gubernamental, ni se le atribuye protagonismo alguno en la dirección del Gobierno. En el marco de estas decisiones el Buró Político y el Consejo de Estado ratificaron la vigencia de los pronunciamientos del compañero Raúl Castro el 24 de febrero de 2008 cuando expresó: “…La institucionalidad es uno de los pilares de la invulnerabilidad de la Revolución en el terreno político, por lo que debemos trabajar en su constante perfeccionamiento. No creernos nunca que lo que hemos hecho es perfecto.” En correspondencia con lo anterior, se convino en la necesidad de continuar estudiando la actual estructura del Gobierno con el objetivo de reducir gradualmente su envergadura y elevar su eficacia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BTTR Shootdown

13 years ago today.

They live on in our hearts and minds.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Movin' on up

Ramiro Valdes, Ulises Rosales del Toro, and Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz have all been promoted to Vice Presidents of the Council of Ministers.

Ramiro Valdes has obviously excelled in his role as technological gatekeeper...he has been able to keep Pandora's Box closed for now.

We might also be able to view this as Raul addressing the 2nd man problem (formerly the 3rd man problem when Fidel was alive, politically that is). Machado Ventura is obviously not the man to fill Raul shoes, most notably because his shoes will likely be 6 feet deep before Raul's. Valdes, on the other hand, is rumored to be in excellent health and has the respect of the military.

Rosales del Toro has done a decent job as agricultural minister (all things considered) sugar minister, sugar production increased and as agricultural minister, Cuba is finding a way past the hurricane damage (allbeit with plenty of international aid and loans that will never be repaid).

Sierra Cruz is somewhat unknown to me...he does seem to be an up-and-comer and totally Raul's guy. He was promoted by Raul to be the Transport Minister in 2006 and now we have this promotion. He is a fairly young, especially compared to the gerontocracy that rules Cuba, at 47 years old. Perhaps Raul is taking steps to train someone for a future leadership role...If I were Lage, I'd be worried.

All-in-all, I see these three promotions as Raul's way of solidifying his place in power...more so than he already had. These three are very obviously his guys, despite the differences he and Valdes might have had in the past. They have apparently moved on.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for closed down ice cream parlors

Well, I've finally realized what will get your everyday Cuban to protest: take away their (or their child's) ice cream and you will apparently get some mobilization.

All jokes aside, I take this as a positive sign that Cubans are not simply willing to conform to everything...who knows, maybe a real erruption can occur from something so seemingly insignificant (in the grand scheme of things).

Cierran heladería
RANCHUELO, Cuba, 13 de febrero (Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Cubanacán Press / - Una de las cuatro heladerías particulares del municipio Ranchuelo, fue clausurada el pasado 7 de febrero, debido a que la policía decomisó la materia prima con la que se elaboraban los helados.

Alrededor de las 6 de la tarde, agentes uniformados se presentaron en la heladería y dulcería de la calle Ignacio Agramonte No. 64, y después de registrar de arriba abajo la vivienda, cargaron con todo lo que consideraron de procedencia ilícita, como azúcar, leche y harina.

Javier Rodríguez, propietario de la vivienda donde estaba el comercio, fue conducido a la estación de policía y allí permaneció arrestado 48 horas. Fue acusado de adquirir productos en el mercado negro.

Jorge Reyes, vecino del lugar, dijo que el decomiso y cierre de la heladería, situada frente a la escuela primaria José Martí, provocó la protesta de decenas de padres, los cuales compraban allí helados y dulces para la merienda de los hijos.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting in Touch with his Roots

From Russia, Raul has taken a little trip to Angola...think oil...

Raul was hevily pressured to make Venezuela the destination of his first international trip as Cuba's President, pressure to which he was forced to comply since Cuba is so heavily dependant on Venezuela.

This extensive trip Raul is taking is proof to me that he is increasingly worried about the stability of Venezuelan aid. The only thing that I find surprising is that he has not (yet) visited China.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Just Kidding!"

So, remember when the newly formed dictatorship decided it would be a great idea to take everyone's land because it is rightfully everyone's and thus, the state should own it so that everyone could own it (confusing!)?

Well, they were just kidding because now they're giving it back. I guess it just took them 50 years to figure out that their system wasn't quite working.

We all heard Raul talk about the new land redistribution but little action had been taken.

The government has now approved 45,518 land grants. Most of these leases are being given to first-time and small family farmers.

While this is a positive step (as any freedom from the government, even economic freedom, is important), it is important to note that the agricultural sector has been specifically targeted for economic reform and the decentralization that it is experiencing (liberalizing the sale of farm equipment and other such changes) is unique.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gorki and Herbert Released

Their release has been confirmed.

Let's hope that the regime will soon learn that all this is pointless and that they will not be able to silence PPR!!

Los cabrones arrestan a Gorki, Herbert, y Renay

Gorki, Herbert, and Renay of Porno Para Ricardo were arrested last night at 10:00. Renay has already been released. Gorki and Herbert remain jailed in the Estacion 21 y C.

It's time to organize once again for our brave friends in Cuba who have never let the regime silence them.

Here is a note from Charlie Bravo:

A todos,
Nuestros amigos, Gorki, Hebert, y Renay de Porno Para Ricardo fueron arbitrariamente arrestados anoche en la Habana
Ellos necesitan de toda nuestra solidaridad, ellos necesitan toda nuestra ayuda para denunciar el acoso por parte del gobierno comunista de Cuba contra estos músicos sin miedo.
Contacte su periódico local y hágales saber que Gorki, su bajista Hebert, y su baterista Renay fueron arrestados sin orden de captura en la Habana, Cuba. Eso no es mas que un secuestro promovido por el estado de terror del régimen cubano.
Por favor, únase a nosotros denunciando la violación de los derechos humanos de estos músicos.
Charlie Bravo
CubaUnderground, miembro virtual de Porno Para Ricardo.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Well, it's no longer speculation, the BBC has confirmed that Raul is on his 5th liver, oh wait, no, they just confirmed that he's drinking again...

All I can say is, "drink up!"...his liver might be saying otherwise, but I have a feeling Raul will ignore it.

Castro en Moscú: cena con cerdo y vodka
Redacción BBC Mundo
Se prevé que las conversaciones formales entre ambos líderes se lleven a cabo este viernes.
El presidente de Cuba, Raúl Castro, y su homólogo ruso Dmitry Medvedev, reafirmaron los lazos diplomáticos entre sus respectivos países durante una cena tradicional de cerdo.
Castro se encuentra en Moscú en lo que constituye la primera vista que realiza un líder cubano desde el fin de la Guerra Fría.
Medvedev y Castro bebieron vodka y degustaron salo -grasa de cerdo salado- en una cabaña de cazadores en el oeste de Moscú.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being Spanish, it's all the Rage these Days

At least temporarily, Spain has solved its low population growth rate problem (.096 in 2008). As previously posted, Spain has passed legislation allowing the children and grandchildren of Spaniards forced into exile between 1936 and 1955 to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Well, the grandchildren's law has already taken affect and the Spanish Consulate has received over 20,000 applications. So far, 40 Cubans have received citizenship and the rest of these applications should be processed by June.

Alvaro Kirkpatrick, the Spanish Adjunct Consul, says that they "expect some 150,000 new Spaniards through the end of 2010" and they expect some 300,000-400,000 applications.

However, no word yet on why nearly half a million Cubans would like to leave the Communist Island Paradise...guess "resisting" isn't the accomplishment they were looking for, good try though Raul.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Havana, with Love

Raul Castro will arrive in Moscow tomorrow to start his week-long visit. This will be his second trip abroad as Cuba's President.

Raul is scheduled to meet with Medvedev on Thursday, informally (think Vodka shots ala-Yeltsin), and then meet again on Friday for official talks as they, or at least Raul, recover from what will likely be quite the massive hangover.

Last week, it was announced that Russia was evaluating the possibility of giving Cuba a $20 million loan, to be spent on Russian goods. I'm sure Raul will do everything he can to nail it down.

It's hard to tell if the increased ties with Russia are just a sign of the times or if they have increased because Raul is now in command. Raul has more of an affinity towards Russia than Fidel ever had.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weekend at Bernie's...

What to make of this?...Could she be lying? Could she have met a double? Could he simply still be alive?...time will tell.

However, her report of Fidel thinking Obama is sincere does clash with what Chavez has been would be odd for Fidel and Chavez to clash in that way.

Well, my guess is that if Fidel is alive, he is not too present mentally and, as I've repeatedly stated, he has been dead politically for over 2 years now.

Fidel Castro looks well, Argentine president says
Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirschner met for 30 minutes Wednesday with Cuba's Fidel Castro, debunking rumors that the aging former dictator was on his deathbed.
''I thought he looked very well,'' Fernández told the Argentine government news agency Telam.
She said Castro watched Tuesday's presidential inauguration ceremony and said he thought Barack Obama was a ''sincere man'' with ``good ideas.''
Rumors began to swirl last week that Castro was gravely ill. Cuba-watchers noted that Castro, 82, had stopped writing his regular newspaper columns and that no videos or pictures had been released of him for months.
''He thinks Obama is sincere in what he is saying and doing,'' she said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The More Things Change...

The more they stay the same.

According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, Cuba has 207 political prisoners. In July of 2006, when Raul was left in charge, Cuba had 316 political prisoners, according to the same group, headed by Elizardo Sanchez. This is a drop of over 34%. We might be tempted to assume that this means that Raul is warm and cuddly compared to his brother.

However, we must look at the short-term incarcerations that Cuba has been implementing since Raul took charge. In 2007, at least 325 (according to the CCPDH)people were arrested and released in a few hours, a few days at most. This kind of catch-and-release policy is used to scare people back into line.

The numbers for 2008 and more startling. The Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs of Cuba reported that from Jan-Nov 2008, there have been 1,107 arbitrary arrests, 139 instances of arbitrary house arrest, 72 activists tried for political activism, and 58 deaths in prison resulting from beatings or negligence.

The decrease in the number of political prisoners is an illusion. Simply because repression in Cuba has changed in appearance, that doesn't mean it's gone. The only difference is that this form of repression lets Raul look a lot better internationally and it may or may not be more effective in controlling political dissent, that is something that remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moneda Dura

It's come to my attention that I haven't mentioned Moneda Dura on this blog...a Cuban band that I have been completely obsessed with of late. This song, Hablame de Amor, is (in my humble opinion) one of the best on their cd "Alma sin Bolsillos." But I recommend just about every song on the CD. But here's my fave!

What Global Recession?

Yesterday it was reported that Venezuela donated $30.4 million to fund social projects in Cuba. These social projects will be in Cienfuegos, where Venezuela has already invested a great deal of money in the refurbishment of the Cienfuegos oil refinery.

So, this donation doesn't come completely out of the blue, however it is somewhat unprecedented considering the plummeting price of oil.

It has been reported that Venezuela's 2009 budget was based on the price of oil maintaining itself above $60 per barrel. Now that the price is below $40 per barrel, one has to wonder from where Chavez will get this money.

Well, an idealist might wonder. The fact is that the Venezuelan people will simply have to do with less as Chavez continues to bail out the failing Revolutionary government. In order to have any sort of political credibility for his "Socialism of the 21st Century," Chavez simply cannot allow the Cuban economy to sink (sink any further than it already has, that is).

So, even though Chavez cannot meet his own people's needs, he will continue giving the Cuban government billions of dollars worth of aid. After all, this $30 million is nothing compared to the billions worth of oil subsidies and credit that he extends to the Communist government.